If you’re anything like me, after hearing a pastor give a sermon at church, you have a whole long list of thoughts and opinions running through your head. I liked how he said this, I loved that verse he shared, but I really disagreed with that one statement, and I really didn’t like how he talked about that other thing…
Not all of my thoughts or opinions about my pastor are positive. Sometimes, I have criticisms or even some complaints. Is that a sin?
A reader recently asked Billy Graham this question in a post on Charisma News. They explained their circumstance like this: “I'm in a civic organization with a couple of friends from another church, and it seems like all they talk about is their pastor's shortcomings. Should I say something to them about this?”
Graham answered this question by simply saying “whatever their reason, it is wrong, and it is a sin in the eyes of God.”
Graham is quick to acknowledge that of course no pastor is perfect. There will always be room for improvement and growth in their teaching, their ministry, and their faith, but that doesn’t mean we should continue to criticize, find fault, and vocalize our opinions.
“Not only does it cause dissension in the church,” Graham says, “but it means their heart and mind are closed to the teaching of God's Word.”
I’ve found personally that I’m most prone to criticism when I feel most disconnected or distant from the Lord myself. It’s easy to look at the pastor on the stage before me and put expectations on him that are unreasonable or unattainable, and to then pick him apart when he falls short of the standard of perfection I’ve put on him. When I do that, it’s exactly like Graham said-- my heart and mind are closed to what the pastor is teaching.
Our pastors have been called to ministry, and we as the body of the church should do all we can to support and encourage them in their roles. They are not faultless, but neither are we, so we should choose to have an attitude of love and grace toward them.
Graham doesn’t claim that pastors should be above criticism, especially those who neglect their responsibilities or truly are at fault in some way. In these situations, “most churches have ways of dealing with such matters through their ruling board or denominational structure,” Graham includes. Gossip and criticism among churchgoers is not the solution to matters like those.
When we might be tempted to find fault with the pastors leading us, let’s instead choose to love them well. Let’s remember that they, like us, are people who struggle and fall short. Let’s give them the same grace we would hope to receive ourselves instead of holding them to impossible standards.
“Pray for an opportunity to speak with your friends about their attitude, urging them not only to avoid criticizing their pastor but to do all they can to support and help this individual,” Graham advises. “Especially encourage them to pray for their pastor. Pray too for your own church and its pastoral staff, that they truly may "Be shepherds of God's flock ... eager to serve" (1 Peter 5:2).”
Matthew Harmon shares four additional ways we can treat our pastors well based on 1 Timothy 5:17-25:
- Provide for their needs (5:17-18)
- Protect their reputation (5:19)
- Pursue their repentance (5:20-21)
- Provide their reinforcements (5:22-25)
Anne Dalhauser shares five ways to be a good friend to someone in full-time ministry on iBelieve.com.
Next time you are tempted to criticize your pastor, try one of these positive approaches instead and see how the Lord changes your heart and attitude.
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com